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Road to Civil War: Winter Soldier

Written by Mark Russell

On the road to Captain America: Civil War, we are looking back at the three key films that set up the future clash of heroes. Avengers Assemble kicked the door open on just how big the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, brought the Avengers together, and showed what happens when the team are both united and divided. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ups the ante, revealing the biggest plot twist of the MCU so far, and changes the world of the Avengers forever, relieving them of their safety mat and throwing them into the deep end.

The film’s primary theme is the difference between black-and-white and grey-coloured morality, and what people will do for security and freedom. Early in the film, Captain America and Nick Fury’s different views on how to protect the world are examined. Coming from the 1940s, where good and evil were more obvious, Rogers follows the beliefs in honesty, trust, and doing only what is necessary to protect others. Nick Fury, being less trusting and more realistic than Rogers, is willing to do dirtier deeds to keep the peace, but where people are less free. Then, you have HYDRA, who will commit mass murder and use fear to convince people it is good to give up their liberties for security. If I had to choose which of the three would offer freedom, I’d go with the star spangled man with the plan.

However, Fury points out to Rogers that the black-and-white morality of the world’s greatest generation had some grey areas, doing a lot of compromises for the greater good. Presumably, he was referring to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki amongst other things. I am glad that Winter Soldier brings this up, refusing to sugar-coat and glorify the actions of the Allies. No army is squeaky clean and always has a darker side, though some are for the greater good.

Rogers is not pleased when he learns about Project Insight – three Helicarriers armed with satellite linking capable of targeting and eliminating countless threats before they become threats. It could be speculated that Insight is the worst case scenario form of the United States’ Patriot Act, removing freedom in favour of security. And, with HYDRA behind the reign  using Dr. Zola’s algorithm to target potential threats based on their past, Project Insight would have been a nightmarish form of protection and security. Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and the loyal members of S.H.I.E.L.D. come to reluctant conclusion that to save the world, they must destroy the once reliable government agency, which has been corrupted to its core and caused a lot of misery in the world.

Being a man out of time, yet quite adaptable, Rogers is alone in the world with most of his friends dead and former love old and senile. Naturally, he is drawn to those who are similar to him, namely Black Widow and Falcon. He remains in S.H.I.E.L.D. because it is the closest to what he has known, but even then, there are tensions and division over what should be done for freedom. He forms a close relationship of trust with Black Widow, at first disapproving of her methods, but later uses them to his advantage, realising sometimes that grey morals are needed to get the job done. The heroes ultimately have to rely on the grey areas to bring down HYDRA, with Black Widow dumping S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets online, though oddly, we have never learnt what any of them are or any consequences of this mass leak.

Perhaps the most important part of the story, is that Captain America gets a personal stake on his character journey. The Winter Soldier is revealed to be Bucky Barnes, his old friend and wartime buddy, who was brainwashed into becoming an obedient assassin. Rogers know he must fight Bucky, but is unable to bring himself to kill him. While the film’s focus is on the conspiracies surrounding S.H.I.E.L.D., Rogers has to face the choice to save or kill Bucky, knowing fully well the evils he has done. We do not actually know what Rogers’ plan is when he finds Bucky, but is likely to be explored in Civil War. But, there is just one big problem that may be a trigger to the splitting of the Avengers.

It is implied that Bucky assassinated Iron Man’s parents, though not confirmed as of yet. Clearly, Rogers is going to struggle to uphold his morals and protect his best friend at the same time. The trailer for Civil War are giving the impression that Iron Man vs. Captain America will be based around their own relationships with Bucky, rather than the clash of ideals around the superhuman registration act. However, the registration act’s existence was brought about by the Avengers and the battles they think. In the third part of Road to Civil War, we’ll look back at Avengers: Age of Ultron, examining the destructive actions of both the Avengers and the titular villain Ultron, and the final triggers that will lead to Civil War.

What are your thoughts of Winter Soldier’s themes? How far will Captain America go to protect Bucky? Sound off below or leave a comment on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell